Distinguished editor, writer, and critic Knight's new novel (after A Reasonable World, 1993, etc.) opens in Milan, where Wellington "Bill" Stouthe "travels in ladies' underwear"is shot in the head while dining in a restaurant. He wakes, or thinks he does, in a hospital; the bullet, too dangerous to remove, still lodges in his skull, so he's being treated with hallucinogenic drugs. According to his dinner companion, Roger Wort, Bill was given a McGuffin by his brother, Tom, to pass to Roger, but in the confusion it went missing or perhaps was stolen from his hotel roomBill doesn't remember. A new planet appears in the sky and is generally referred to as "Mongo." A slick salesman from the Spaeth Corporation puts a bug in Bill's shoes while pretending to correct their fit. The McGuffin must have been an ordinary-looking business card, Roger concludes, and Bill recalls giving one to a Rosemary Sanchez, with whom he'd chatted on the plane. Bill encounters the ancient order of Dentists, a secret organization of supermen who are battling Spaeth and the Mongoids for control of the world. Pursued by the mysterious owners of the McGuffin (they declare that Bill is receiving glimpses of the real world), Bill returns to America in search of Sanchez, while asteroids (or perhaps spaceships) strike the Earth, ejecting debrisor alien invaders.
Weird, amusing, confusing, arresting, and yet the whole is disappointingly less that the sum of the myriad, often wonderful, parts.